Supercharge Your eLearning By Including Custom Job Aids

Job Aid Sample ImageOn January 206h, my ATD NYC eLearning SIG co-chair Mark Cassetta and I partnered with Hal Christensen of the Performance Support SIG to offer another of what I’ve come to call “interactive roundtables”.  In these roundtables, rather than inviting a speaker, we give ATD NYC members a little bit of “homework” on a selected topic, and then we all get together to share what we’ve contributed–a “flipped classroom” approach.  We discuss what works well with contributed samples, and share ideas for enhancements.  Everyone walks away with a pack of examples, and great ideas they can leverage for their next eLearning course.  We held extremely successful eLearning SIG roundtables on both Instructional Design Fixes and Gamification in 2015, and for the first meeting of 2016, it seemed only right to focus our spotlight on the grossly-underappreciated workhorses of learning: Job Aids.

Why job aids?  “They’ve been around since the dawn of time,” I hear you say.  “They’re so old-fashioned in this digital age,” I hear you say.  “They’re not sexy,” I hear you think to yourself.  (Yep, I’m listening.)  Well, the reality is that job aids have only become more important in this digital age–because now a job aid can appear in more formats than ever, and they are easier to share than ever.  And with very little effort, you can even make them look sleek and appealing.

What exactly do I mean by job aid?  I mean any kind of material you create to support and reinforce your key teaching points with your learners once they’re back on the job.  A job aid should always be clear, and to the point.  A job aid is not usually the place for history, theory, background, etc.  A job aid should focus on reminding your learners how to get the job done (step-by-step, if needed) quickly and efficiently.  No frills.  Just the facts.

Why do job aids remain so relevant?  Because every training course is subject to the same simple, unfortunate fact: a huge percentage of the eLearning we offer up so lovingly is completely forgotten back on the job.  By simply including one or more job aids in your eLearning, you’re empowering your learners to download the just-in-time support tool they will need later on to reinforce what they’ve learned–at the moment they actually need it!

Whenever I work with a new eLearning client, one of the first things I explore during my needs analysis is whether the client might only need a good job aid or two.  Honestly, sometimes that will fill the knowledge gap in question quite well–and building a whole eLearning course in those cases is not an effective use of time, resources, or budget.

But even when eLearning is the appropriate solution (or part of a blended one), I always look for opportunities to share some of the key information of the course in job aid format, usually a PDF downloadable from within the course itself.  I’m alway amazed when a client says they don’t see the need for job aids!  Any opportunity you have to offer inexpensive, effective performance support is an opportunity you should seize with both hands.

What kind of job aid you need will, of course, depend on your training content.  It could be, for example:

  • A checklist
  • A worksheet
  • A step-by-step how-to guide
  • A “Yes/No” decision tree/process flow
  • A set of best practices reminders
  • Or something else that best suits your content

And the format could be (among others):

  • A PDF file (almost universally readable)
  • A brief video clip (Mp4 plays on almost any device)
  • A podcast (Mp3 plays on almost any device)

The point is, job aids are almost infinitely flexible, and now with the digital age, and the advent of mobile learning, they can be in the form of video and/or audio support, as well.  Well-designed job aids can provide great “snapshots” of your key information points, and help ensure your eLearning course (or classroom training) continues to resonate weeks and months after the learner takes your course.

We had a great joint eLearning/Performance Support session on job aids.  There wasn’t an empty seat in the room (a lovely meeting space graciously provided once again by CUNY–thank you!!).  Hal, Mark, and I offered a brief overview about the purpose and scope of job aids, along with a few samples we examined.  You can view and download a PDF of that PowerPoint file here:

Job Aid Overview

We had a host of great submissions shared by attendees, in a wide variety of styles and format.  Discussion was both animated and enlightening.  And often quite funny.

If you’re not already a member of ATD NYC, I urge you to explore all that’s available to you with a membership.  For one thing, in addition to the excellent Chapter meetings, there are all the different SIG meetings–including eLearning, Performance Support, and more.

And speaking for our eLearning SIG, in 2014 I started offering our sessions simultaneously as in-person and webinar format. So even if you don’t live in the NYC area, you can still benefit from our eLearning SIG’s sessions online, and share in all the great brainstorming.

Our next eLearning SIG meeting will be in March, on a topic to be decided by our members.  I hope to “see” you there!

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